To reach the Rolling Stones‘ plush new London office you step into an ancient lift which looks not unlike the Tardis – and takes off with the same startling disregard of gravity. Once upstairs, we were greeted, not by Dr. Who, but by Mick Jagger, seated at a conference table dressed in brown corduroy jacket, pink frilled shirt, green trousers and black shoes.
Munching sunflower seeds we listened to the new Stones single, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” It’s a driving, bluesy piece with just the five Stones – easily their most commercial single in quite a while. We wondered if it was a deliberate move back.
“It’s very basic,” agreed Mick. “But we didn’t say: ‘Right, we’ll go backwards.’ All you are really saying is that it has a good beat – it’s not weird and full of electric sounds. We could do it on stage. In fact we have done – for a film for Top Of The Pops. We did it live, with no backing track or anything. We didn’t do it as a single. We are over half way through the new album and it was difficult, picking which track should be the single because they are all quite good for singles.
“The only person on the album so far, apart from the Stones, is Dave Mason. There’s one song, a ballad, that I think we will use an orchestral on, but most of the tracks are uptempo things, all our own stuff. We rehearsed quite a long time, before we started recording, in a studio in Surrey.”
Mick said the reason they now had Jimmy Miller producing their discs was largely because of the physical difficulties of recording and producing at the same time.
“It doesn’t mean we do everything we are told in the studio now,” he went on. “Actually, we did some of the single on a Cassette tape recorder, which is a pretty mad way of making a record. We were all round at my house and we were recording everything. We got such weird sounds on drums and guitar with the Cassette that we decided to use it. Charlie was just playing toy drums but we liked it and thought ‘So why not use it.’ We recorded again over the top of it.”
Will British audiences ever see the Stones on stage again?
“I think you will,” said Mick. “I’d certainly like to, and I don’t see why not. But you can’t go on forever, just going round the country. There are other things to do – like going round the country and actually looking at it instead. I like working, but travelling all the time – no!”
Mick seems completely unscathed by the Stones’ trials and tribulations of the last year. We asked how bad publicity affected him.
“I get so used to hard knocks I don’t notice much,” he said. “And anyway, I don’t get knocked by the people I respect. The publicity thing has been like that for five years now. The arrest thing did screw us up last year. Looking at it objectively now, it screwed us up as far as records go, and performing, because we just didn’t feel like doing any of it. But I was surprised at some of the support we got. It helped to balance things up. Reading what the Times had to say was one thing that made me feel people are fair. Actually, I felt like packing up last year, but it was just a feeling that passed.”
Ask Mick if he plans for the future and he says: “I don’t think more than a few bars ahead.”
Asked about his business interests, Mick told us: “My interests are all in music. And movies – I have several things going in films which are nothing to do with me as a performer. Then this office grows. I just let it ride along and it just grows. I don’t have to do much about it beyond vaguely telling people what to do.”
Mick is to make his acting debut in a Warner Bros-Seven Arts film, The Performers.
“I’m going to play a kind of drop out,” he said. “It’s all your acting bit. I’ve been working quite hard on it because I have to understand the person before I play him. Shooting is due to start in July. There is also the Stones film coming up. All I can say about it is that it’s very good. It will be made here this year and is all music.”
Mention of the Rock Revival and Bill Haley was the signal for much Jagger hilarity.
“That kind of rock and roll,” he laughed. “The best kind was all the Little Richard and Chuck Berry that was part of every group’s basic education. But Bill Haley?! You know what I mean? Really I have great sympathy with the Revival but all this stuff is not good enough. If what you are looking for is excitement you’ve got to be able to find it in new things. If you are a groover and all you’ve got is all these ballads in the charts, I can understand you wanting to go back to rock and roll, but this is just living in the past. If Haley came up with a great new record it might be different, but all it is is hearing all the old ones again. It was all great at the time because it was everything that was happening then. But now, no! I suppose somebody will start saying our new single is rock because it has a blues basis. I like to do blues very much and I like listening to people like John Mayall. But I don’t get stuck on the blues. I couldn’t have a blues band – we’ve already had one. I want one that can do other things as well.”
What does Mick listen to? “I’m so involved with my own thing I don’t listen to too many other groups,” he says. “I don’t listen to the radio at home, although I do in the car. Do I miss the pirates? I miss having more than one station. I think Radio One is all right, but in a city like London there should be room for at least five stations. There should be one playing the Top 40; one like Radio One; one all jazz; one for freak pop sounds, new things and American records; one playing classical music all day. There should be room for so many different sounds. If I want to listen to Stockhausen, Bach or Jimi Hendrix, I should be able to press a button and get the sort of music I want.”
Mick yawned. “I’m tired, and we are recording again tonight. The rate we are going we are finishing two things a night – or almost finishing them. We don’t like scrapping things when they are half done. We try and finish everything and then sort out the best tracks at the end. The B side of the single, ‘Child Of The Moon,’ we did with country piano and acoustic guitar. I rather liked it, but Keith didn’t dig it. We did it another way, all more electric, and I must admit it turned out better. This is the point about being a co-operative group – you have to be, you can’t do it any other way. It’s just a case of understanding each other. You know what they all dig before you start working on it.”
How does Mick relax outside working hours these days?
“I never go to clubs now,” he says. “I stay home or go out, but not to clubs. I go to films, concerts or other people’s houses. I’m moving house next week. I’ve bought a house in Chelsea and I’ve also got a house in Hampshire, it’s a huge great place.
“Cars? I’ve got an Aston Martin and a 1936 Cadillac. Oh, and a motor bike. I just got it to go across country. It’s like a scrambler.”
That seemed a pretty good image on which to leave Mick to rush off to his recording session. So if you see Mick Jagger roaring across the Hampshire fields on motor cycle it’s all right, you don’t need a trip to the funny farm.
This story is from the June 22, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone.